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Crafting a School Policy on AI? Here’s What Experts Recommend

Artificial intelligence is developing so rapidly that many educators fear school district policies to handle issues like cheating or protecting data privacy will be outdated almost the minute they are released.

To keep up with the technology’s quick evolution, districts should keep their AI policies as simple as possible, experts said during an Education Week webinar entitled Ready or Not, AI Is Here: How K-12 Schools Should Respond.

“I think if we have complex policies, then it becomes a web that we can’t untangle as things change,” said Tammi Sisk, an educational specialist with the Fairfax County schools in northern Virginia. “You don’t want to go too heavy-handed on policy and then have to backtrack. So, keep it simple.”

Districts should aim for “good, strong, basic guidance” and “bring teachers into the conversation” to help inform it, since they are likely to bring up issues that district leaders may have never thought of, said Sisk, who is helping to develop Fairfax’s AI policies.

Two major issues to address: ensuring teachers understand AI’s strengths and weaknesses and keeping student data safe, Sisk said.

The Peninsula school district in Washington state has chosen to develop “principles and beliefs” around AI as opposed to hard-and-fast policy for now, Kris Hagel, the district’s executive director of digital learning, said on the webinar.

“We looked at it last spring and said, ‘Boy, it is moving so fast,’” Hagel said. “And when you think of policy and a lot of education settings, you think of these very rigid, school board-approved policies.” The district decided it didn’t “want to do that because we don’t know where this is gonna land yet,” Hagel said.

Instead, Peninsula is working off a principle of ensuring educators remain the key decisionmakers, even if their choices are informed by AI.

“We want humans to be involved in the conversation,” he said. “We don’t want AI making decisions about student learning. We don’t want students just completely utilizing AI to turn in homework. We grounded it in ‘we want a human in the middle.’”

For more of the conversation about how school policy can keep pace with AI, watch the video above.

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